Friday, December 26, 2008

The Second Day of Christmas -- Feast of St. Stephen

Because most folks do not run off to church every day during the 12 days of Christmas, we miss a compelling understory that runs through this season of bowl games and parties, travel and relaxation. The understory is a dark one. The church calendar marks people and events that reflect the struggles and violence of the world that Christ came to save.

Today, the "two turtledove" day in the 12 Days of Christmas carol, commemorates the church's first martyr, Stephen, the deacon. He confronted the religious authorities in Jerusalem with his witness to Jesus Christ and was stoned to death for his comments. A young man named Saul, the future St. Paul, was a bystander.

The feast of Stephen is also noted in the carol "Good King Wenceslas" about a poor man looking for firewood on a bitter winter night in the 10th century. The Bohemian king, Wenceslas, decides to take his page out to find the man, build a fire and serve him dinner. The king and page fight through the bitter snow, and the page almost gives up the trek. The king tells him to step within his footprints ... and his feet are so warm that they melt the snow right down to the ground. This was one of the miracles that made the historical king, Saint Wenceslas I, a revered saint almost from the instant of his death.

It ends with a cry for this season, one we forget in our celebrations: "Therefore Christian men be sure, wealth or rank possessing/Ye who now will bless the poor, shall yourselves find blessing."

Where do you find someone struggling outside your doorstep today? Where do you see someone willing to die for their convictions? What does it mean to you that the Christmas season encompasses martyrdom and mercy, testimony and courage?

+ Kit

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

On Christmas Eve ... Thinking of Adam

I've been thinking of Adam since yesterday. In our house, we always call December 23 "Christmas Adam" because it comes before Christmas Eve. But Adam and Eve have been part of the Christmas story since the middle ages. They, after all, represent the reason we need a Savior -- human hubris, the desire to be like God, and the conviction that we can decide for ourselves without considering God's input or commands. Without this "fall," we would never have needed Immanuel, Godwithus, Jesus Christ.

An old medieval carol, 'Adam lay ybounden' perfectly captures the fate of the fallen and the delight at our redemption. Listen to it here by the incomparable choir of Kings College-Cambridge:

And this is the text:

Adam lay ybounden,
Bounden in a bond;
Four thousand winter
Thought he not too long.
And all was for an apple,
An apple that he took,
As clerk√ęs finden written
In their book.
Nor had one apple taken been,
The apple taken been,
Then had never Our Lady
A-been heaven's queen.
Blessed be the time
That apple taken was.
Therefore we may singen
Deo gratias!

Thanks be to God, indeed. See you tonight, God willing, either at the 5 p.m. family service, or the splendiferous celebration of Christmas in all its glory at 9 p.m.

+ Kit

Monday, December 22, 2008

Join the Caroling Fun

Susan and Nico Gisholt are inviting anyone who would like to come to their house tonight for caroling and cookies, to please come! It starts at 6 p.m. If you email them, they'll give you directions and a phone number ...

See you there!

+ Kit

Sunday, December 21, 2008

When Christmas is Sad -- A Longest Night Service

On this shortest day and longest night, so close to Christmas, it can feel like darkness has swallowed the world. Especially if you have lost someone you love, to death, divorce, depression, this season of joy and merriment can feel hollow and meaningless.

All Saints offers its second annual "Longest Night" service in the chapel today at 5 p.m. This is a chance to pray, to remember, to sit in silence, to light a candle, and to share communion with others who feel the same way.

Join us, whoever you are and however you are. Share your sorrows with God, and remember the true meaning of the season: Christ born for us to heal us and make us whole.

This prayer from the New Zealand Prayer Book might help with your sorrows this season.

Lord it is night. The night is for stillness. Let us be still in the presence of God. It is night after a long day. What has been done has been done; what has not been done has not been done. Let it be. The night is dark. Let our fears of the darkness of the world and of our own lives rest in you. The night is quiet. Let the quietness of your peace enfold us, all dear to us, and all who have no peace. The night heralds the dawn. Let us look expectantly to a new day, new joys, new possibilities. In your name we pray. Amen.

+ Kit

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Christmas Coffeehouse -- Friday Night

Friday night, from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m., join All Saints friends for Christmas stories, songs, carols and other -- interessssting -- entertainment. It's BYO adult beverage, plenty of snacks to go around, and for an evening at least, Advent is OFF.

We are singing the Christmas music!!! If you've never come before, it's lots of fun in a relaxed atmosphere. Come and go through the evening as you wish.

+ Kit

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

From Puritan Christmas Ban to Crucified Santa ... How Far We Have Come?

I found this history of the development of Christmas tradition interesting:

An overview:
1600's: The Puritans made it illegal to mention St. Nicolas' name. People were not allowed to exchange gifts, light a candle, or sing Christmas carols.
17th century: Dutch immigrants brought with them the legend of Sinter Klaas.
1773: Santa first appeared in the media as St. A Claus.
1804: The New York Historical Society was founded with St. Nicolas as its patron saint. Its members engaged in the Dutch practice of gift-giving at Christmas.
1809: Washington Irving, writing under the pseudonym Diedrich Knickerbocker, included Saint Nicolas in his book "A History of New York." Nicolas is described as riding into town on a horse.
1812: Irving, revised his book to include Nicolas riding over the trees in a wagon.
1821: William Gilley printed a poem about "Santeclaus" who was dressed in fur and drove a sleigh drawn by a single reindeer.
1822: Dentist Clement Clarke Moore is believed by many to have written a poem "An Account of a Visit from Saint Nicolas," which became better known as "The Night before Christmas." Santa is portrayed as an elf with a miniature sleigh equipped with eight reindeer which are named in the poem as Blitzem, Comet, Cupid, Dancer, Dasher, Donder, Prancer, and Vixen. Others attribute the poem to a contemporary, Henry Livingston, Jr. Two have since been renamed Donner and Blitzen.
1841: J.W. Parkinson, a Philadelphia merchant, hired a man to dress up in a "Criscringle" outfit and climb the chimney of his store.
1863: Illustrator Thomas Nast created images of Santa for the Christmas editions of Harper's Magazine. These continued through the 1890's.
1860s: President Abraham Lincoln asked Nast to create a drawing of Santa with some Union soldiers. This image of Santa supporting the enemy had a demoralizing influence on the Confederate army -- an early example of psychological warfare.
1897: Francis P Church, Editor of the New York Sun, wrote an editorial in response to a letter from an eight year-old girl, Virginia O'Hanlon. She had written the paper asking whether there really was a Santa Claus. It has become known as the "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus" letter.
1920's: The image of Santa had been standardized to portray a bearded, over-weight, jolly man dressed in a red suit with white trim.
1931: Haddon Sundblom, illustrator for The Coca-Cola ™ company drew a series of Santa images in their Christmas advertisements until 1964. The company holds the trademark for the Coca-Cola Santa design. Christmas ads including Santa continue to the present day.
1939: Copywriter Robert L. May of the Montgomery Ward Company created a poem about Rudolph, the ninth reindeer. May had been "often taunted as a child for being shy, small and slight." He created an ostracized reindeer with a shiny red nose who became a hero one foggy Christmas eve. Santa was part-way through deliveries when the visibility started to degenerate. Santa added Rudolph to his team of reindeer to help illuminate the path. A copy of the poem was given free to Montgomery Ward customers.
1949: Johnny Marks wrote the song "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer." Rudolph was relocated to the North Pole where he was initially rejected by the other reindeer who wouldn't let him play in their reindeer games because of his strange looking nose. The song was recorded by Gene Autry and became his all-time best seller. Next to "White Christmas" it is the most popular song of all time.
1993: An urban folk tale began to circulate about a Japanese department store displaying a life-sized Santa Claus being crucified on a cross. It never happened.
1997: Artist Robert Cenedella drew a painting of a crucified Santa Claus. It was displayed in the window of the New York's Art Students League and received intense criticism from some religious groups. His drawing was a protest. He attempted to show how Santa Claus had replaced Jesus Christ as the most important personality at Christmas time.

From The History of Christmas website.

Who is the most important personality at Christmas time for you? What would your family or friends or co-workers say?

+ Kit

Monday, December 15, 2008

What if the True Meaning of Christmas REALLY Shone Through?

I have been thinking about "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas" and that moment at the top of Mount Crumpet, when the Grinch is about to dump all the stuff he took from the Whos.

The story says, "Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more." Because of course, the Whos woke up and found no toys, no gifts, no trimmings or trappings, and no Roast Beast for the Feast. Nonetheless, they gathered in their square, "heart to heart and hand to hand" and started "singing, without any Christmas at all."

"He hadn't stopped Christmas from coming. It came. Somehow or other, it came just the same."

So, I'm just wondering ... what if the Grinch went ahead and dumped all that stuff into the ravine, and went back down the mountain and joined the Whos in their song? What if that really WAS Christmas, and they almost missed it with all the stuff they had laden on to it? After all, "Christmas Day is in our grasp, so long as we have hands to clasp. Welcome Christmas, bring your cheer. Welcome to all Whos far and near. Christmas Day will always be, just so long as we have we."

+ Kit

Friday, December 12, 2008

He's BAAAACK -- Reading Ahead for Advent III

Oh wait, didn't we do John the Baptist LAST Sunday? Well, yes, but he's back again for another visit, this time in an episode from John's gospel that sounds a lot like last week's lesson. John the Evangelist -- who almost never sounds like Matthew, Mark or Luke, and who rarely uses the same event to tell his story -- quotes John the Baptist and that sandal quote that we heard last week ... "I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal."

This is interesting from a Biblical scholarship perspective ... if even John the Evangelist records John the Baptist saying the bit about the sandal, well that is probably something the historical John the Baptist said.

But more interesting to me is ... why does the lectionary want us to hear this story again in the same year, once from Mark and once from John? Why are we not allowed to move on to the Annunciation, the dream of Joseph, the visit to Elizabeth and all those great warm-up stories to the birth of Jesus. Why do we have to spend TWO WEEKS in the wilderness with John the Baptist?

The Baptizer is not done with us yet. We must not have heeded his message. There must be more to learn. As you sit in the wilderness this week, where do you hear the voice of the Baptizer calling you? Where is the light you need to see, the light he has come to bear witness to? The light is shining in this dark, dark month. Can you lift up your head, look around, and see it dawning?

Monday, December 8, 2008

Today's Unseen, Unsung Heroes: The Altar Guild!

Do you ever wonder ... maybe you don't ... how everything gets ready for our worship each week? Where do the cups come from? Who puts the wine in that pitcher? Who bakes the bread? Who makes sure the altar is wearing the appropriate color for the season?

It's the altar guild, a group of caring, talented people who do their work quietly and without a lot of fuss. The altar guild makes sure the linens are washed and ironed. They make sure we have enough bread and wine. They set out the dishes, and they quietly clean up afterward.

This is wonderful work done by some truly wonderful people. They also would like to welcome others -- women and men -- to help them in this quiet work. It takes about one Sunday a month, and the altar guild members work together with others.

If you're a quiet sort of person, if you like to do something that is truly useful, but you don't want a lot of fuss made over you, perhaps you are being called to serve on the altar guild. Let me know if this appeals ...

+ Kit

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Reading Ahead -- Advent II

Are you ready for this week? You know what this week is ... it's the week in December when we get ready to meet that curious man with the big beard and the wide leather belt and the big voice, who calls out:

No, not "ho, ho, ho!"

But this ... "The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and until the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit."

That's right, John the Baptist is back. You'd better watch out. You'd better not cry. You'd better not pout ...

You'd better just repent. Repent in the Greek (metanoia) means simply to turn around and go the other way. What way are you heading this week that might be leading you astray? Where do you need to stop, turn around, and try a new direction?

The Baptizer is standing in your way, telling you to stop! Go back! Head the other way. Be good, for goodness sake!

+ Kit

P.S. Yes, I know it's Saint Nicholas Day today. But I want us to be very clear whose voice is calling to us this week, and it's not the guy who puts candy in your stockings (or in your shoes, if you're Dutch).

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Would You Prefer This Sort of Creed?

Many people tell me they have trouble attending church because they can't say the Creeds with intellectual integrity.

Sometimes, intellectual integrity is over-rated. I can't imagine we'd like saying it this way any better ...

The Apostles' and Nicene Creeds are statements of theology hammered out by the early church to try to resolve questions about God. They are not the be-all-end-all in theological understanding of God. They are shared statements that the community of believers have used for centuries to guide our understanding of God as we struggle and pray and live with one another as Christians.

Or as my theology professor used to say, "It's not YOUR creed, it's the Church's creed. So either say it along with us, or don't."

+ Kit

P.S. Thanks to Tam for forwarding the video!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Centering Prayer in the Chapel Tonight

For three weeks in Advent, beginning tonight, All Saints is offering the opportunity to pause in the midst of this hectic season, to settle down and center in, to simply be still in the presence of God, through the practice of Centering Prayer.

Centering prayer is also known as Christian meditation. It is the kind of prayer Jesus meant when he said, "Enter your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret, and the Father who sees in secret will reward you." (Matthew 6:6) It was practiced by the Desert Fathers and Mothers in the fourth century and was continued by the Hesychasts of Eastern Orthodox tradition, through the Middle Ages and the author of The Cloud of Unknowing, also practiced by Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross and most recently, Thomas Merton.

It is simply a way to be still in God's presence and be available. One says a sacred word, like "Jesus" "Maranatha" "Spirit", silently to one's self like a mantra. When thoughts arise in the mind, one says the word again, and simply returns to the word whenever the mind gets busy. Prayer sessions last for about 20 minutes. They are not supposed to be mystical or weird experiences, but to be a designated space and time to make room inside for the Spirit of God that dwells in all of us.

This evening is our first session, in the chapel from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. We'll begin with some reflective reading of scripture. Then, I will have some instructional materials on how to do centering prayer and we'll have some conversation and guidance before entering a 20-minute period of silence and contemplation.

Slow down. Quiet. It's Advent. Enjoy this brief time to be still and open to the Holy One who made us and who loves us and walks the way with us.

+ Kit

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Must Read: "Jesus Was an Episcopalian (and you can be one too)"

The Diocese of Michigan's own Rev. Chris Yaw is the author of this engaging, informative and inspiring book on the Episcopal Church, and what it has to offer the 21st century world. Billed as "A Newcomer's Guide to the Episcopal Church," I believe it has much to offer even the most entrenched "cradle" Episcopalian. For one thing, it does not start our story with Henry VIII and his infamous divorce! It begins with a profound vision of how ordinary people are working to make this world more like God's Kingdom, and how our Episcopal ethos is uniquely suited to this kind of work.

Henry VIII does turn up ... more than 100 pages in, after discussion of the current state of religion in American, the value Episcopalians place on using your MIND, the gift of welcome, the celebration of the eucharist, living an ethical life, the Bible ... and wait! There he is ... King Henry VIII, in the chapter on Roots, which really is a quick breeze through Christian history, with the English Reformation as just a bend in that great stream.

This is a wonderful, bright, informative book (Bishop Tutu loved it, too!) that is a good reminder of who we are and Whose we are. It would make a great gift for that family member of yours who doesn't quite get it how you ended up in the "Episcopalian" church. (And thanks, Chris, for reminding us that Episcopalian is a noun, and Episcopal is an adjective!) Or for your co-worker who wonders what you are doing over at that church all week.

But I'll leave you with Chris's vision of how God sees Episcopalians:
--God sees us passionately devoted to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
--God sees us willing to fight poverty, disease and injustice.
--God sees us as thinkers.
--God sees us as accepting and open-minded.
--God sees us as reconcilers and forgivers.
--God sees us forming faithful and inclusive communities.
--God sees us as upholders of valuable traditions.
--God sees us devoted to the Eucharist.
--God sees us offering helpful missionary opportunities.
--God sees that we have good news to share.

+ Kit

Monday, December 1, 2008

The Amazing, Unseen, Yet Totally Fabulous ... All Saints Choir!

They pass through the congregation like a host of angels in the opening procession, then disappear into the vaulted ceiling, to the choir loft. Yes, it's the All Saints Choir, the often heard, but rarely seen, group of 30 fabulously talented singers and musicians who enhance our worship with music from the simple and austere to the intense and complex.

In the past few weeks, the choir has prepared and participated in a special musical Sunday, featuring Henry Purcell's "Bell Anthem", with a string quartet of MSU grad students. But who knows that the strings and accompanying handbell parts were scored by our own Don Hoopingarner? Don also brings the string bass up into the loft from time to time to add a bit of "woof" to things. Steve Findley and Ray Kinzel played trumpet descants. And Tamara Hicks-Syron adds violin accompaniment almost every Sunday.

Last night, the choir provided transcendent music and stellar liturgical leadership in a service of Advent choral evensong. Music to die for! In the weeks ahead, they are tackling challenging anthems for the Advent season. When they finally make it to Christmas Eve, with a full half-hour of caroling and solos and special choral music as a prelude to the 9:30 p.m. service, they will peak in a glorious moment of choral bliss and then sink back exhausted for a week until the New Year.

I am so blessed to hear this choir, week in and week out, under the faithful guidance of Michael Crouch and Sandy Consiglio (who also pitches in with oboe!). I frequently brag on them to my fellow clergy, because they sound as good as a paid choir, and they work WAY harder!

If you see any of them flying by on a Sunday morning on the way up to the loft and warm-ups, say hi. Say thank you. They totally rock!

+ Kit

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Online Advent Calendar

Episcopal Cafe has posted an online Advent Calendar that will help celebrate and support the Bokamoso Youth Program in South Africa. The project was once funded by the Anglican Church in South Africa, but economic strains in that country have ended that stream of support. Donations raised through the calendar will help pay for students to attend community college or technical school in South Africa.

Visit the calendar daily in Advent and learn more about this program and the struggles faced by youth in South Africa today.

+ Kit

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Don't Just Give Thanks ... Say Thank You

I sent an email yesterday to a former mentor of mine. I wanted to say "thank you" to him for teaching me something very important about how to be a Christian and a priest. Today, I'm going to email an old friend from high school to thank her for her presence in my life these many years.

During this week of Thanksgiving, why not try this practice of saying thanks? Think of someone who has taught you something, shared an experience with you, stood by you, given you good advice, or made you laugh. Let that person know that you are grateful for their wisdom, friendship, and support.

It is easy, going around the table at Thanksgiving, to think of something we are thankful for. But how often do we say directly to another person ... "I am thankful for YOU"? God grants us many blessings, but surely the greatest blessings of all are those who travel the way with us.

Be swift to love. Make haste to be kind.

Say "thank you".


Monday, November 24, 2008

The Advent Conspiracy

This video tells us how to begin. The website tells us more.

As we begin Advent next Sunday, I support the core message of the Advent Conspiracy ... Worship fully, spend less, give more, love all. Let their suggestion to spend less money, enjoy our relationships more fully, and give more money to those who really need it inspire us all.

+ Kit

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Saint of the Week -- C.S. Lewis

Today we celebrate Clive Staples Lewis, author and apologist for the Christian faith. Born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in 1898, Lewis had a lonely childhood. His father was emotionally distant, and his mother died when he was ten. A series of boarding schools, some nightmarish, some merely horrid, formed him, until he left for Oxford. A rich fantasy life, especially focused on the Norse myths, sustained him.

After serving in World War I, he kept a promise made to a fellow soldier, that if anything happened to one of them, the other would care for the family left behind. After his friend Paddy Moore died, Lewis took Paddy's mother, Jane, as his adopted mother. Eventually, in 1930, Lewis, his brother Warnie, Jane and her daughter Maureen moved into "The Kilns", the famous house outside Oxford where Lewis wrote the bulk of his work.

Lewis lapsed into atheism in his teens, and was reluctantly converted -- first to a sort of theism, then eventually to Christianity. He remained a loyal Anglican, to the dismay of his friend J.R.R. Tolkein, who had hoped Lewis would become a Catholic.

In Lewis's later life, he met Joy Davidman Gresham, an American divorcee who had corresponded with him. He entered into a civil marriage with her, but after she developed bone cancer, he realized the depth of his love for her, and a Christian marriage was performed at her hospital bedside in 1956. Gresham's cancer went into remission and she and Lewis lived together for four more years. His grief at her eventual death fueled the writing of A Grief Observed, a raw and painfully honest look at the loss of a beloved.

I treasure Lewis most for the Narnia books ... a series of children's stories set in the imaginary land of Narnia. While they lack the intellectual heft and subtlety of Tolkein's Lord of the Rings series, Narnia melds Lewis's imaginative and painful childhood with the beauty and confidence of his faith. As a middle aged man, "Jack" Lewis managed to awaken his own inner child to write classics that children and adults alike return to, over and over again.

Lewis died on November 22, 1963. News of his death was completely overshadowed by the news of President Kennedy's assassination.

+ Kit

Friday, November 21, 2008

Reading Ahead -- Feast of Christ the King

In this week's gospel reading, we end the church year with the last parable Jesus tells before his passion and death (in Matthew's gospel, anyway. This parable only appears in Matthew.)

The parable of the sheep and goats makes it very clear that it is not "believing" in Jesus that wins one eternal fellowship with the Lord. It is ministering to Jesus in his least obvious and most prevalent form ... those who are hungry, sick, thirsty, a prisoner, a stranger, naked. It is not what we THINK about religion that matters. It is what we do with it.

I visited an elderly gentleman once who was near death. "I've been thinking a lot about my life," he said. "I am really sorry that I didn't spend more time with people and less time trying to get ahead.

"I am most sorry that I spent all this time thinking about my religion, and not enough time living it," he sighed.

I was struck to the quick by that statement. It sounds like something you'd read in a book of sermon illustrations, and here was a real person saying this sad thing, with no time left in his life to do any differently than he had done.

Life is short, and we do not have too much time ...

+ Kit

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Get Ready for Advent

Advent starts in less than two weeks. Are you ready to get ready? We'll have several ways to help you embark on this season of waiting as if on tiptoe for the coming Messiah.

One, the ever-whimsical Advent calendar poster by Jay Sidebotham. Each day has an idea, a prayer, a thought for you as you move through this busy season, a way for you to keep the focus on the Incarnation in the midst of all the craziness. Pick one up Sunday at church.

Also on November 30, the first Sunday of Advent, we'll have Advent wreaths to assemble for your family during coffee hour after the 10 a.m. service. Call the office 351-7160 to reserve a wreath-making kit.

+ Kit

Friday, November 14, 2008

More reading ahead -- the gospel lesson

The gospel lesson for this week is a tough one.

First, it's not about "talents" as in God-given talents. A talent was a unit of money, worth about 6,000 days' wages. This landowner is not messing around. He is entrusting his slaves with huge sums of money. This is a parable about money.

Second, it's not about capitalism either. The economy of the first-century world did not understand capitalism. It was a fixed-resource economy. To make more money you had to get it from someone else. It is very likely the wealthy landowner got his land by loaning money to small landowners, who could not repay their debt, lost their land to the landowner and ended up working ... for him ... the land of their ancestors. Wealthy landowners are Biblical bad guys.

Third, is it even good news? Is GOD the ruthless landowner? Are the two slaves who made buckets of money off their fellows and gave it to the landowner good guys? Should the other slave really be punished for giving back exactly what was given to him, and not investing it with the money lenders? Usury (lending money at interest) was still a sin in those days.

I suggest you read the parable in its context ... Matthew chapter 25. It is the second of three parables that are the last teachings Jesus gives his disciples before he begins his passion. On one side, the wise and foolish virgins. On the other side, the parable of the sheep and goats. The ending of the parable of the sheep and goats seems to indicate that Jesus is where the poor people are, where the ones who got screwed by an unjust economy are, where the hungry and homeless are.

So knowing that, how do you read this parable of the incredible amount of money put in the hands of three slaves? What do you think?

+ Kit

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Reading Ahead -- Pentecost 27

Before Israel had kings, the people were ruled by judges ... men OR women who arbitrated between people, who settled disputes, and who kept the good of the nation in the forefront of their mind.

The book of Judges tells their story. It is a wild book, about the youth of the nation of Israel, its continuing fights with Philistines and Canaanites. The small section we will read Sunday comes from one of the most ancient parts of our Scriptures. It tells us of a culture where you could still rely on kin and clan to provide soldiers for the army of Israel. It also tells us of the importance of women in Israel's survival -- Deborah, the judge, and later Jael, the woman who kills the Canaanite general Sisera.

Taken as a whole, the book of Judges is offputting to many people. It is bloody, violent, gory, and filled with battles, sword fights, narrow escapes and murders. It is the perfect way to begin to introduce 8-year-old boys to the Bible! The book shows Israel descending into worse and worse behavior, which will lead eventually to the demand for a king. It is a shame, because the original exercise in the new nation was one of self-government, of tribes living side by side, able to sort out their differences through the administration of laws by a wise judge. The people proved too unruly, however, and settled for a human monarchy at last.

Or as the last verse of Judges puts it: "In those days there was no king in Israel. All the people did what was right in their own eyes." (Judges 21:25)

+ Kit

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Standing or Kneeling?

Paper or plastic? Smoking or non-smoking?

Standing or kneeling?

This has become an option during the Eucharistic prayer. Different people have different pieties, different ways of connecting with God.

The Prayer Book says after the Sanctus (the Holy, Holy, Holy) ... The People may stand or kneel. (Except in Rite I it says "The people may kneel or stand." and in Eucharistic Prayer C, it doesn't say anything at all ... it assumes everyone will stand through the whole prayer. You can tell what the Prayer Book prefers you to do when there is a choice, by which option is listed first.)

Why Stand?

Generally, the committee that prepared the Book of Common Prayer would prefer the people stand during the Eucharistic Prayer. It is the position Jesus would have used to pray, it is the position used by the first Christians for prayer, and it was the position specified by the Council of Nicaea. It reminds us that in his death and resurrection, Christ has made us worthy to stand before him. (The prayer in Eucharistic Prayer B even says that ...)

Standing is a position of piety for many people who have grown up with the 1979 Prayer Book. It is more comfortable for some people than kneeling. It strengthens their faith and helps them to feel the celebratory spirit of the Eucharist, to feel thankful for their redemption in Christ.

Why Kneel?

Kneeling for the eucharistic prayer is something that began in the Middle Ages. This was a period when the people did not generally receive the sacrament at all. Only the priests were thought to be holy enough to actually consume the bread and wine. So the people kneeled to show their respect for the priest as he offered the mass and received communion.

Kneeling has been a position of piety for many people long after the Middle Ages passed. It reminds them of their humility before God. It focuses their attention on the prayer and the sacrament. It enhances their devotion.

Now What? Some are standing and some are kneeling!

This is fine. People should be able to express their piety in the eucharistic prayer by standing OR kneeling, as each person prefers.

But this raises a question of etiquette. If you are standing to pray because that enhances your prayer, you may be standing in front of someone who is kneeling, because that enhances his or her prayer. If you are standing in front of someone who is kneeling, what do they see as they gaze toward the altar?

Your backside.

So that everyone's prayer life can be enhanced, if you are a "stander," it would help the "kneelers" if you could sit on the outer edges of the sanctuary, near the windows. That way, as people look up and toward the altar in the center, they will have an unobstructed view. If you are a "kneeler" and a "stander" gets in front of you, please be patient ... try to move to one side or the other if you can. Also, the forward pews and chairs will provide a better line of sight.

Let us be patient with one another, brothers and sisters!

+ Kit

Thursday, November 6, 2008

More Reporting on Day of the Dead

The State News, MSU's student paper, is expanding into multimedia reporting. Here is a great video report on last weekend's Day of the Dead celebration, where you can see the dancing, hear the mariachis, and catch Nico Gisholt and Dori Helm talking about our celebration and how awesome the Episcopal Church is!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

When You Think About God ...

...when you hear the word "God", what images come to mind?

For many people, their concept of God is built around a God who's outside of everything, a God who essentially is somewhere else, a God who make the world but then stands back and watches it from this other vantage point, a God who's there and then from time to time, comes here.

-- Rob Bell

Join us for the first installment of our Nooma series, when we examine what might be the nature of God, as we have come to know ... or as we fail to know ... God. Ask the questions. We might not have answers, but we can share the discussion.

Supper at 6 p.m., Nooma film and discussion from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m., Wednesdays in November.

If God can help people find things on sale, then why doesn't God spend time on things that seem more important like earthquakes, or famines, or sickness?

It's a question ...

+ Kit

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Prayer for an Election

Almighty God, to whom we must account for all our powers
and privileges: Guide the people of the United States, and of
this community, in the election of officials and representatives;
that, by faithful administration and wise laws, the rights of
all may be protected and our nation be enabled to fulfill your
purposes; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Monday, November 3, 2008

All Saints, All Souls, and Forgetting the Dead

Michigan author, poet and funeral director Thomas Lynch writes in the New York Times about the ongoing American project to forget death.

He writes: "The dead get buried but we seldom see a grave. Or they are burned, but few folks ever see the fire. Photographs of coffins returned from wars are forbidden, and news coverage of soldiers’ burials is discouraged. Where sex was once private and funerals were public, now sex is everywhere and the dead go to their graves often as not without witness or ritual."

But the feast we just celebrated, which stretches from All Hallows' Eve (Halloween), through All Saints' Day (November 1) and All Souls' Day (November 2), provides a tonic to this cultural amnesia.

"All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day are time set aside to broker peace between the living and the dead. Whether you are pagan or religious, Celt or Christian, New Age believer or doubter-at-large, these are the days when you traditionally acknowledge that the gone are not forgotten."

The entire essay is well worth a read. Lynch himself is well worth getting to know better, in print -- and in person, here at All Saints on Wednesday, March 4, when he opens our Lenten educational program on the Spirituality and Practicality of Death.

+ Kit

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Hablamos una fiesta! Day of the Dead Celebration Continues

Last night's fiesta drew more than 200 All Saints friends and community members to our undercroft to feast on Mexican food, dance to mariachis and honor our beloved dead with a community altar.
The Lansing State Journal had this report.

But most importantly, the celebration continues liturgically this evening at 5 p.m. All Saints will join with the student ministry, Canterbury-MSU, to celebrate All Saints Sunday with a bilingual mass, featuring readings, prayers, sermon and songs in both English and Spanish.

Join us!

+ Kit

Friday, October 31, 2008

Listening for a Call

This essay by Kathleen Henderson Staudt asks the question, "How shall I respond to the relationship with God that I'm already in, perhaps without knowing it?"

It is a question that turns the business of vocation on its head. Vocation becomes not about my JOB in the real world. It is not about a super-sacred call that will lead to ordained ministry. It is about response, response to something already happening, response to something we may only just be coming to acknowledge.

How are you listening for this tiny prompting in your own relationship with God? How are you managing it, if it is overwhelming you and the Spirit has you in her beak by the nape of your neck?

These are the questions of this All Saints season, as we seek to discover how the saints of God are "just folk like me" and how "just folk like me" can actually attain the sainthood God calls each of us into.

+ Kit

P.S. Kathy Staudt will be with us for the Adult Forum on November 16. Join us.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Catrinas, Calaveras, Tacos and Mariachis

Laugh at death. Cry a little as you remember lost loved ones. Dance to mariachi music and enjoy the flavors of Mexico at our second annual Day of the Dead fiesta, this Saturday night from 6-9 p.m.

This year's celebration is a joint effort between All Saints and Canterbury-MSU, the student ministry. We'll have catered food from Los Tres Amigos, Hispanic dancers, a mariachi band, and a cultural presentation on the roots and customs of this Mexican tradition. In Mexico, these days surrounding All Saints Day (November 1) are celebrated with parades, feasts, and all night vigils in local cemeteries. It is a way of saluting death and remembering those who have gone before, but with joy and celebration, not just mourning.

The centerpiece of the event is a community altar, where we can put items that honor our deceased loved ones ... a photograph, a toy, a favorite soda ... so that we remember those we have loved and lost, and invite them to our fiesta, too.

The event is free and open to everyone! Bring a friend! And bring a canned good to donate to Cristo Rey Community Center.

The celebration will conclude Sunday at 5 p.m. with a bilingual worship service held in conjunction with the Canterbury-MSU student ministry. Join us for Dia de los Muertos, this weekend.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

What is Church For?

This website offers the notion that Church exists so members can serve Christ the other six days of the week. Here are the basic principles they outline. What do you think? Do you agree? What can All Saints do to support your everyday ministry?

A theology for member missions

Our missiology: God’s mission and our role in it. Member mission is based on seven very critical truths about God and the relationship we share with the Lord.

1. God is on mission. God is on mission everywhere all the time. God is always working with us and through us to make the world all that it can be. Just think about it: right now teachers are helping children learn to read, aid workers are distributing food to the hungry, and people are reaching out to friends and neighbors in time of need. This is all God’s work. Wherever there is love and justice, God is at work. The Lord’s mission is to bring love and justice wherever they are blocked and to maintain or increase them where they are already present.

2. God’s mission has a church. The church does not have a mission. Rather, God’s mission has a church. The church is the visible instrument of God’s mission and, so, collaborates with any person or group working for greater love and justice. As we set about doing God’s work in the world, remember that the Lord is already at work there. We are only joining what God is already doing.

3. God is as concerned about how we live from Monday to Saturday as God is about what we do on Sunday. What does that mean? It means that what we do with our church, what we will call “congregational missions,” are just one part of our lives. “Congregational missions” are done by the congregation as a whole or by one of its committees. “Congregational missions” may include altar guild work, youth ministry, community service, operating a soup kitchen, and so on. These are critical missions, yet most of us spend the majority of our days doing other things. This is where the other kind of mission work comes in. “Member missions” are what church members do daily at home, at work, in their communities, in the wider world, and during their leisure. In truth, because the members go everywhere in the world each day, what they do can have far greater impact on the world than what the congregation does. Thus, their potential impact is unlimited! It’s about using the vast majority of our time to work for greater purposes – God’s purposes. It would seem then, that God would care most about what we do Monday to Saturday, not what we do on Sunday.

4. Today, churches are often sidelined when critical decisions are made. But, the members are not! Spirituality – our relationship with God and how it influences what we do – needs to go public. Our spirituality is often focused on our private lives and our inner struggles as human beings. Our public lives can easily be overlooked. But it is in our public lives that we can often do the most good for Christ by carrying our Christian values into the world. We do not intend to impose our beliefs on others but, rather, to allow our faith to guide our behavior in every facet of our lives. This way we can influence the political, social, and individual decision that affect people’s lives.

5. A congregation’s basic purpose should be to support the members in their daily lives. However, it may start out as just one of a congregation’s purposes. Ideally, in time, this will become its primary purpose. Now, this may be very different from the current focus of many churches. As a congregation starts to move in this new direction of supporting members in their missions, the members will come to see that it’s in this purpose that God’s greatest presence and power can be found. God’s work in the world thrives when the members move out into the world to join in God’s constant struggle to overcome evil and to bring the world closer to all God wants it to be. This new focus may seem to be a very difficult task at first for any church, but as church life moves toward this purpose, the leaders and members will feel their loads lessen and satisfaction increase as they empower others – and each other – to do God’s work every day. And, in turn, church leaders and members will be empowered as well.

6. As God’s missionaries, we remember that we are coworkers with God; Jesus Christ is the victor over evil and shares that power over evil with us. We have to choose to do God’s work. Then we look to Jesus for help to get it done. Jesus overcame evil in his lifetime through his death and resurrection. Even Crucifixion did not kill Jesus or destroy his message. His resurrection is the ultimate victory over evil. Evil will never have the final say. We are not alone when we struggle with it because Jesus shares his power over evil with us.

7. Our mission is to live the gospel. This means that we are here to love each other and to share in God’s mission by what we do and what we say. We draw on our church life and its members to provide the methods, the support, the guidance, and the power to do God’s work.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Get Ready for Action Community Problems Assembly

This Thursday, October 30, from 7-8:30 p.m., the member congregations of Action of Greater Lansing will gather to choose the issue that we will focus on for the rest of the year.

The choices are:

1) There are insufficient numbers of beds for homeless in the Lansing area.

2) There is not a user-friendly, central point for accessing social services.

3) Public transportation is inconvenient, not user-friendly, and not enough routes.

We will gather in this Community Problems Assembly to vote on one of these three issues. All Saints' participation is crucial, so anyone who can spare an hour and a half this Thursday evening, come to St. Paul's Episcopal Church, 218 W. Ottowa Street, directly across from the Capitol. We hope to turn out 30 All Saints' members to vote.

+ Kit

Friday, October 24, 2008

A Word of Hope on a Rainy Day

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

-- Philippians 4:13

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Another Reason Paul Was Not a Woman-Hater

I inadvertently skipped over this very important part of my talk on St. Paul last night, so I share it here ...

Another reason I don't take the "wives be submissive to your husband" verses in Colossians and Ephesians as coming from Paul himself, is because in First Corinthians, which we KNOW Paul wrote, he has advice for married men and women that calls for radical mutuality in the marriage bed.

1 Corinthians 7:1-5 Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: "It is well for a man not to touch a woman." But because of cases of sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another except perhaps by agreement for a set time, to devote yourselves to prayer, and then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

In a patriarchal world, where women's sexuality was widely seen as solely under the control of men, Paul's image of husband and wife as subordinate one to the other, each with his or her own rights to sexual pleasure in the marriage bed, is far ahead of his time.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Very Superstitious ...

OK, whose fault is it?

You know who you are ... the person out there who watched the Spartans play, or who didn't watch the Spartans play, or who went to the game or who left the game too early, or who wore the wrong shirt, or the wrong hat, or put your shoes on the wrong way, or who made a cocky pre-game prediction.

It's your fault, you know. For not doing whatever magic ju-ju you needed to do to ensure Spartan success. It had nothing to do with oh, say ... the coaches, or the players, or officials. It was all due to you.

No, not really. But isn't that how we think? Especially about sports, which are sort of a secular religion for us. We try to appease the gods of football or basketball or baseball with the appropriate ritualistic behavior.

I think it's because -- as 21st century Americans of a certain class -- that we have an inflated sense of our own control. We honestly believe that we can control our lives, our futures, our children, our children's futures, our GRANDchildren's futures, our economic success, our health, and our old age. So when confronted with something that we really have no control over ... like a football game ... we dream up ways to "control" it.

In the end, we control very little. We control how we react to situations. We control how to plan for the future, but not how that future will unfold. We control our own morality, our own code of living, our own philosophy.

The rest of it is beyond us. It takes all the grace of God to get us through every minute of every day. It's not in our hands. Thank God!


+ Kit

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Reading Ahead -- Pentecost 23

In this week's readings you may be tempted to ignore the Epistle. It's from the first chapter of Paul's first letter to the Thessalonians. Don't skip on so fast!

This is the oldest piece of the New Testament, the earliest written part of our Christian scriptures. It predates the writing of the gospels, and the writing of any other of the epistles. Written about 50 AD, this is the closest part of the Bible we have to Jesus and his earthly ministry.

Paul did not know he was writing scripture. Paul was writing letters to the communities he had founded. In Thessalonika, the little house churches were concerned because Christians were dying, and Jesus had not returned yet. They clearly were suffering some level of persecution for their faith, and Paul called a scribe, who picked up pen and ink, and as the apostle spoke, began to take down his words. The very first words of our New Testament:

Paul, Silvanus and Timothy, to the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace ...

So it begins ...

+ Kit

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Children's Sabbath

Each day in America ...

• 2 mothers die from complications of pregnancy or childbirth.
• 4 children are killed by abuse or neglect.
• 5 children or teens commit suicide.
• 8 children or teens are killed by firearms.
• 32 children or teens die from accidents.
• 78 babies die before their first birthdays.
• 155 children are arrested for violent crimes.
• 296 children are arrested for drug crimes.
• 928 babies are born at low birthweight.
• 1,154 babies are born to teen mothers.
• 1,511 public school students are corporally punished.*
• 2,145 babies are born without health insurance.
• 2,467 high school students drop out.*
• 2,421 children are confirmed as abused or neglected.
• 2,483 babies are born into poverty.
• 3,477 children are arrested.
• 18,221 public school students are suspended.*
* Based on calculations per school day (180 days of seven hours each)
Retrieved from the Children’s Defense Fund website,

Join us Sunday for our annual observance of the Children's Sabbath. Canon Jo Gantzer, diocesan canon for life-long learning, will be our guest preacher.

+ Kit

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Please Submit Your Comments in the Form of a Question.

This essay appeared yesterday on Episcopal Cafe.
By Kit Carlson

I was on Jeopardy! recently. Maybe you saw it. I was the woman in the middle. The one with the clerical collar on.

It’s strange enough to be a contestant on this 25-year-old, beloved game show (and it’s even older, if you count the original incarnation with host Art Fleming), but stranger still to be a priest playing Jeopardy!

“Wear your collar,” advised a former parishioner, who had won three days in a row a few years ago. “Oh, please, please, please wear your collar,” urged one of my Sunday School teachers. “You’re going to wear your collar, aren’t you?” asked a vestry member. For some reason, it was very important to these people that I be identifiable to the world as a priest playing Jeopardy!

It does seem odd, I guess, to have a cleric up there, zinging one-liners with Alex Trebek and trying to take home cash in Ken Jennings-sized quantities. Not as odd as you may think, however. There has been a little boomlet in clergy contestants on Jeopardy! Yes, usually they get lawyers and librarians and teachers. The show does self-select for geeky types who love to read. But most clergy fit that exact description: geeky types who love to read. At my live audition in Chicago (at which I did wear my collar), there was a UCC pastor in the group as well. In the intervening weeks between the audition and my own taping, I saw at least three other clerics give it a run.

And I have always wanted to go on Jeopardy! My cousin Richard Cordray (now Treasurer of Ohio) went on in the ‘80s and won five days in a row, then went back for Tournament of Champions. My mother always nagged me, “Why don’t you go on that show? You know as much as Richard. Look how well he did. You should go on Jeopardy! too.” And playing from my sofa, I often figured, yes – I could do this. I could be on Jeopardy!

So when I saw last winter that there was an internet audition, I did it. Just for laughs, and for my late mother’s memory, too. Then last spring, they called me to go for a live audition. So I went. Just for a few more laughs, and to silence my mother’s nagging inside my head. And four weeks later, they called and asked me to fly to LA to COMPETE ON JEOPARDY!!!! (Insert high-pitched squeals here …)

But it also messes with your head, to be a priest who plays Jeopardy! First of all, it’s hard to just get into the greedy, greedy, give-me-more game show mentality. Did I want to win five days in a row? Did I want to go on and on and on like Ken Jennings? That would totally mess with vestry meetings and hospital visitations, for sure. And what about that money, if I did win? Yes, I have credit card debt and kids in college and I need every penny of my salary and then some. But it also seemed inappropriate to just take a bunch of winnings and keep them to myself.

W.W.J.D? as the bracelets say. In between learning in April that I had been selected to go for a live audition in Chicago in May, I went on a mission trip to Haiti. This nation, only 500 miles from Miami, is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. The level of poverty is beyond imagining. And the group I traveled with, the Haiti Outreach Mission () (a group of Catholic and Episcopal parishes, mostly from Detroit), has built a clinic and an orphanage and is making some real impact in the town of Mirebalais. So that answered the question for me. Whatever I got, I would give to the Haiti Outreach Mission.

So I went to L.A. I wore my collar. I played the game. I came in second, by just $100 there in Final Jeopardy! But that still meant I would get a $2,000 runner-up prize. And that, at least, could go to Haiti.

The only issue then became dancing this strange dance of publicity and notoriety. Because after all these years of wanting to go on Jeopardy!, I did want people to know that I had finally made it on, and to watch the show. But it’s vaguely embarrassing to be calling attention to myself. Everything I do I want to point not to me, but to the gospel and to the joy of knowing that God loves us, and to the things that are good and strong about the Episcopal Church.

But Lansing is a smallish city, so the newspaper wanted to interview me. And the local affiliate that airs Jeopardy! wanted to interview me. And so I put the collar on again, because this time I also wanted the world to know that I was a priest who plays Jeopardy!

I wanted to see printed very boldly in the paper, and filmed very prominently on TV, the words ALL SAINTS EPISCOPAL CHURCH, so that people in our region would know there was a community that went with the collar, a place they might want to explore on a Sunday morning (if only to see if the sermon is delivered entirely in the form of a question).

But more than that, I hoped that people would stop for one second and think about that disconnect – a priest playing Jeopardy! I hoped they would think about what happens when a person who stands for God also stands in the crack between the church world and the secular world so that each can see the other. So that each might speak to each other. So that each might, a little bit less, stop fearing the other.

Answer: A priest and Jeopardy!

Question: What are two things that maybe do have something to do with each other after all?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Church Signs ...

People have definite opinions about church signs. Some hate the "cutesy" sayings that some faith communities post. (Come inside, we're prayer conditioned ... etc.) Others despise the new trend in flashing message boards that tell you more than you can read as you drive by.

But an email joke making the rounds has caught my eye. Do dogs go to heaven? In this series of signs, Catholics and Presbyterians appear to duke it out over whether or not dogs have souls. It's good for a laugh, but alas ... you can go to Church Sign Generator and see how the little joke came to be.

But you can also ... make up your OWN. Prizes for the best signs. Email them to me.

+ Kit

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Thinking about Home-going on Homecoming

When I did funerals for African members of my former congregation, they were often referred to as someone's "Home-going" service. The person had finished their exile on earth and was returning home to Jesus. The observances began with a wake on Friday night, with prayers, speeches and lots and lots of singing, as the body lay in repose at the front of the church. The funeral services themselves were filled with full-throated singing, with tears and wailing, with powerful sermons and testimonials to the person's life. They were followed by hearty repasts, where hundreds of people gathered to eat, laugh, drink and enjoy one another's company.

Going home to Jesus was a major and significant event -- not just for the person who had gone home, but for the wide and extended community. It was an occasion for people to demonstrate the depths of their faith, their grief at losing a beloved companion, and their joy that someday they too, would go home to the loving arms of Jesus.

If you ever wondered about the phrase, "faith in the sure and certain hope of the resurrection from the dead," going to an African funeral would eliminate all doubts. We do go home to Jesus. And it is a homegoing worthy of celebration.

+ Kit

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Reading Ahead -- Pentecost 21

In this week's lessons, we get the BIG TEN. No, not the conference, the Commandments.

I often think that people don't really believe in the Ten Commandments. They believe in the Four Commandments: Thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not commit adultery, thou shalt not bear false witness. (I have to use the old-fashioned language, because isn't that how God spoke to Moses ... in Elizabethan English?)

Sometimes, we'll consider two others: Honor thy father and mother, and thou shalt not covet. We don't find those two quite as binding, because you know, our parents can be really irritating or seriously messed up. And coveting ... well, without coveting, we wouldn't have much of an economy. So we dance around those two.

And then we basically ignore the rest. Which I believe we do at our peril. I believe the commandments we tend to shelve for later consideration are the most important ones on the list. And perhaps we ignore them for that very reason. They are the harder ones to follow. And if we actually took them seriously, following them might change our lives.

You shall have no other Gods but me. (But that would mean displacing our selves, our children, our jobs, our football teams from their vaunted places in our souls ...)

You shall not make for yourself an idol. Not an idol of our politics? Or of our bank accounts? Or of our carefully constructed lifestyles? Or even of the Spartans?????

You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord. And I don't think God means shouting out the name of his Son, using the middle initial "H." I think this refers to using God's name to justify our position ... on political issues, on issues of religion, on issues of ethics. When we say "God wants," we usually mean "WE want ..." but we want to cloak it in that sacred veil.

Remember the sabbath day and keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. God asks of us one uninterrupted 24 hour period a week. Seriously. One complete day to rest, to enjoy our families and friends, to worship, to read, to simply BE, to exist outside of human time and human economy and to exist on God's time, in God's economy.

As Paul would say, "God is not mocked." But how often do we mock God by picking and choosing our way through our covenant responsibilities? How hard is it for us to take those other commandments as seriously as we take the Big Four?

+ Kit

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Pet Blessing on Sunday

Come to All Saints on Sunday at 5 p.m. with your companion animal (appropriately caged or leashed) for the annual blessing of the pets. Eucharist with Canterbury MSU will follow immediately after the blessing, on the lawn in front of the church.

Bring a friend or neighbor along to share the joy!


+ Kit

Monday, September 29, 2008

Sowing Seeds of Hope ... That's All Saints!

In 2007, the vestry voted to use the entirety of the Van Auken seminarian fund to support a single seminarian ... Wisnel Dejardin, of Haiti. The money we provided was used by Virginia Theological Seminary to provide English language immersion for Wisnel last summer, prior to his entering VTS this fall.

Wisnel had to go from no English to Master's degree-level English in just a few months. He began seminary classes in August, with a jump-start in Biblical Greek. He is taking a full load this fall, including New Testament and Old Testament, in addition to pastoral training classes and that pesky Biblical Greek. All Saints' financial support of his English training has made it possible for him to even attempt this course load (with the help of a regular English tutor).

Of course, once we did this, the Van Auken fund was emptied. So one man from the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere would get a shot, but what about others?

Virginia Seminary recently announced that it has received a grant to provide similar English-language training for incoming seminarians from Haiti and the Dominican Republic. The Carpenter grant will provide in-country training as well as U.S. immersion for seminarians from these two countries.

All Saints' support for this immersion program was a first for VTS. Now with the Carpenter grant, what our one parish did one time, will transform into a long-term program that will benefit others.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Rummage Through Our Rummage Sale

There's an Undercroft full of stuff waiting for you at the rummage sale. It runs today, Friday, from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. This seems to be the year of the vacuum cleaner and the coffee maker. But there's lots more than that to explore.

+ Kit

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Reading Ahead -- Pentecost 20

A man had two sons ... Jesus loves these parables with fathers and sons. This one is about the sons who were asked to go work in the vineyard. One said no, and went anyway. The other said yes and did not go. The one who did as his father bid was the one who said no and went anyway.

Everytime we think it's just about believing the right way, Jesus comes along to remind us that we have to do the right thing. To walk the walk, not just talk the talk.

Are you doing or just believing this week? Are you out there in the vineyard? If not, why not?

+ Kit

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Praying for the Economy

I read that Trinity Episcopal Church on Wall Street (which was such an important pastoral presence after 9/11) has become a refuge for the battered New Yorker again. Specifically, the workers of the financial district, who are coming to midweek services to pray and to cry, and even to ask the clergy for financial assistance.

It is tempting, when one is a faithful, regular churchgoer, to want to look down one's nose at the folks who only show up during a national or personal crisis, or who only turn up on Christmas and Easter. But those very people are the reason we keep our doors open and our community strong. So that when they come to our churches, whatever is driving them, they find us already worshipping, already witnessing, already ready to welcome them in Christ's name.

+ Kit

Monday, September 22, 2008

Collecting Your Clutter

The basement of the church is now receiving your items for our fall rummage sale (this coming Friday evening and Saturday day). This is a good time for you to go through your closets and cull out those things you no longer need or want and bring them by for the sale.

But may I suggest that you make this a spiritual practice? You can do this in several ways.

1) As you clean out the clutter, think about what clutter in your mind or life you need to remove to make more room for God. What's filling up your thoughts and energies that you might lay aside?

2) As you sort, you will invariably come across things that once had meaning for you, that once were fresh and new, that once amused you (or simply that once FIT you!). As these items pass through your hands, say a prayer of thanksgiving for the time they were useful. Or ask for healing for a time that was not pleasant. Or pray for the strength to diet back into that size pants again. But use the objects as a way to open up conversation with God.

3) Pray for the people who will purchase your items. Pray for their health and happiness, their future and their security.

And Rebecca McKee would want me to add -- if your spirituality finds its meaning in action, she could use your help sorting, selling and cleaning up!

+ Kit

Friday, September 19, 2008

Christians and the Election

The best thing out there on faith and the election is this piece by Sara Miles.

Please read it, prayerfully and thoughtfully. Please forward it to people you know who are just a little more tied up in this election stuff than they might want to be if they sat down and asked, "What Would Jesus Do?"

And pray.



Thursday, September 18, 2008

Reading Ahead -- Pentecost 19

Pay day for the workers in the vineyard brings some startling surprises in
this week's gospel lesson. Those who worked all day get paid the usual daily wage.

And so do the ones who only worked one hour.

How do you hear this lesson, living in a union community? It's certainly not fair. But is it unjust? Who is God in this lesson for you, if the ones who work the least get paid the same as the ones who work the longest? What does that say to you about God's generosity and our own small-mindedness?

Have you ever gotten goodness you did not earn?

+ Kit

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Putting it Back Together

Last Saturday, with the sermon still only partly written, my computer went crazy. The virus protection program started saying viruses were trying to invade. I rebooted, and the whole thing got very strange, error messages, threats, requests that I click here, click there.

My computer had been invaded by a dozen or more viruses and it needed to die. Wendell couldn't make it better. I was freaking out ... all my pictures, all my sermons, class notes, stewardship letters, genealogy charts ... (at least all my emails live on the web). The SERMON! (Well that got finished late at night at church.)

The computer died. I managed to scrape off it my documents and my pictures. That was it. Wendell reset it to factory settings and it was fresh and new like the day I got it. Every single program, document, etc. had to be reinstalled.

It made me extremely grouchy.

It also made me realize how extremely petty my grouchiness was. Because if I was this worked up over one computer, imagine how I would be if I were the woman in the picture above, sorting through the wreck of her Texas home after last weekend's hurricane, searching for pieces of her grandmother's china.

From the bridge in Mirebalais, Haiti, to the flattened landscape of Galveston, to the overflowing Grand River, Ike left his mark in a wide swathe. So many people felt the storm's destructive force.

In the end, it's your health and life and the safety of your loved ones that counts. But once that is assured, cleaning up, rebuilding, restoring, can take years, as we have seen with Katrina. It creates financial hardship, physical deprivation, stress, grief and anger.

Please: pray for all those affected by the storm, from the Caribbean to the Midwest.
Please: consider making a donation to the Red Cross or Episcopal Relief and Development.
Please: Remember to keep a sense of humor when life's little problems loom large. Things could be much worse.

+ Kit

Friday, September 12, 2008

Hurricane Ike

Ike is still on my mind ... I dreamed about Haiti last night, and I am concerned for friends and colleagues in Texas.

As this massive storm approaches the U.S., keep all affected by it in prayer. Also, I saw today in the paper that these storms have put the Red Cross deeply in debt. The Red Cross is always there during these catastrophes. Please remember the Red Cross and also Episcopal Relief and Development with your gifts.

+ Kit

Thursday, September 11, 2008

From "90210" to the Pulpit and Back

The Rev. Ann Gillespie has taken a trip back to her roots as a member of the cast of "Beverly Hills 90210". She plays alcoholic Jackie Taylor, Kelly's troubled mom.

After a career in Hollywood, Gillespie (the daughter of an Episcopal priest) got tired of the Hollywood scene, felt the call and moved her family across country to attend THE Protestant Episcopal Seminary in Virginia (also known as Virginia Theological Seminary, alma mater of mine and Sarah Midzalkowski's.) Now she is associate rector at historic Christ Church-Alexandria, Va., where George Washington once worshipped.

But when "90210" returned in a remake version this fall, they wanted to keep Jackie Taylor as a character. Gillespie took off the plastic collar and headed west once more, to play the sort of person she would spend hours counseling in real life.

Lots of clergy have "previous lives" that their parishioners don't really know much about. Chaplain Sarah, for example, worked in costuming on Broadway for several years, on shows like "The Lion King." I was editor of Discovery Channel's print magazine.

But then God gets all in the mix, and the church gets all in the mix, and the next thing you know, it's the plastic collar and the pulpit.

Or not. God can call us out of one career into another that actually has nothing to do with the Episcopal Church. The challenge is to be responsive to those movements of the Spirit that lead us from one stage of our life into the next, from one vocation into another.

+ Kit

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Reading Ahead -- Pentecost 18

This week's reading from
Exodus takes us to the shores of the Red Sea (or Sea of Reeds), where the Israelites find themselves up against the water with the Egyptians at their backs. It's like one of those cop show chases, where the suspect ends up in an alley, back to the wall and no way out.

Except in this case, God has no intention of letting the Egyptians recapture His people. Moses miraculously parts the water, the Israelites pass through, the Egyptians are drowned as the waters return.

You can get into endless debates about the historicity of this ... was there a tide that cleared the sand, was there a wind that blew the waters back, was there even a Moses or an Exodus at all ...

I would rather ask the question: What does it mean to follow a God who will NOT let you return to slavery? Who will not let you go back to your old ways, your old habits, the leeks and onions of Egypt? What does it mean to follow a God who "makes a way out of no way?"

When has God made a "way out of no way" for you, delivered you from the brink of destruction, brought you safely through at last?

+ Kit

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

I am Religious, Not Spiritual

“I’m spiritual, but I’m not religious.”

This has become an incredibly popular statement in recent years. In a Beliefnet excerpt from his book, “Spiritual, But Not Religious,” Robert C. Fuller estimates that about one in every five people describes themselves this way. The increasing individualism and consumerism in modern culture has also extended into the realm of the spiritual. People who describe themselves this way see spirituality as something private, not public, something personal, not communal, and something they can design and control and devise, rather than something handed to them by an institution of some sort.

Fuller quotes researchers who say such folks are “less likely to evaluate religiousness positively, less likely to engage in traditional forms of worship such as church attendance and prayer, less likely to engage in group experiences related to spiritual growth, more likely to be agnostic, more likely to characterize religiousness and spirituality as different and nonoverlapping concepts, more likely to hold nontraditional beliefs, and more likely to have had mystical experiences.”

Practically, this statement – “I’m spiritual but not religious” -- has a way of raising a wall between a regular, church-going sort of person and a friend or colleague who has no intention of becoming a regular, church-going sort of person. It says, “Back off. Don’t butt into my private relationship or lack of relationship with the Divine. I know all about you ‘religious’ folks. You want to tell me I’m going to hell or imply there’s something wrong with me. Well, I have my own way of connecting – or not – with God. So shut up.”

Well, that’s how I hear it any way. It may not be what is intended, when the person speaks it. But it cuts. It says to me that the person believes that “spiritual” is somehow more authentic, more noble than “religious”, with its checkered history of pogroms and persecutions, its tedious liturgies and self-righteous evangelistic approaches. It makes me -- as a sort of regular, church-going person who actually is religious -- feel like a representative of the Spanish Inquisition or a denizen of the shiniest buckle in the Bible Belt.

But I have decided to feel inferior to these “spiritual but not religious” people no more. I am going to claim my identity as “religious but not spiritual.”
What do I mean by that? I mean to celebrate the fact that one can become part of a faith community and enter into its life and practices and find meaning there, without ever having been smacked over the head by a supernatural experience. That one can choose to adhere to the tenets and expectations of a religious community and let that life of following those expectations create a space within one’s soul where the spiritual might occur. That – much like entering into a long marriage, rather than looking to hook ups for love and affection – one might find that the long, tedious, faithful activities of a committed relationship actually can make one a larger and more loving person than one would have been otherwise, left to one’s own devices.

I mean that discipline, duty, and devotion to a religious community can work as well for the spiritual life as it does for the physical life. No one says, “I’m athletic but I don’t work out.” No one says, “I’m tennis player but I have no partners.” To become athletic, a person has to move. It helps even more if one joins a team or a health club or gets a personal trainer. To become a tennis player, you have to play tennis with other people. You can only get so far whacking the ball against a concrete wall day after day.

Religion, admittedly, has brought the world its share of grief. But religion has also given the world hospitals and health clinics, universities and inner-city schools. Religion has fed the hungry and clothed the naked. Religion gave us Habitat for Humanity. It gave us Bach. It gave us Mother Teresa, Desmond Tutu and Martin Luther King, Jr.

Religion, faithfully practiced, might even help the “spiritual but not religious” folks to grow more spiritual, to be more connected to God, and to give them fellow travelers on the way who can help them in their spiritual quests.

I’m glad that I am religious. My religious life forces me to think about God even when I don’t feel like it. It inspires me to be a better person than I actually want to be. It connects me to people I never would seek out on my own and helps me to relate to them as my brothers and sisters in the eyes of God. It believes for me when I don’t feel like believing. It prays for me when I can’t pray. It opens the pathway to God for me, week in and week out, and invites me to take another step along the way.

So, yes, I have joined the “I’m religious, but not spiritual” group on Facebook. I honestly think that this may be an idea whose time has come -- especially for those shy and staid sort of folks who go to church dutifully every Sunday, cook casseroles for families with new babies, work on the Habitat house, make a pledge, show up at church clean-up day, haul their protesting teenagers to youth group, who remember their church in their will, but who … urk … cough … struggle to offer up an extemporaneous prayer, or to articulate what exactly it is they are doing here, anyway.

There are more of us out there than you think. Religious, but maybe not quite so spiritual.

+ Kit

This piece appeared yesterday on Episcopal Cafe.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Hurricane Ike Batters Mirebalais

Well, after dodging two hurricanes, the little town of Mirebalais, Haiti, is getting hit with heavy rains and winds from Hurricane Ike. This is the town where the Haiti Outreach Mission has its clinic and orphanage. It is also the home town of Wisnel Dejardin, the seminarian we are sponsoring at VTS.

Here is the report from Dominique Matthews that I received today:

Hi Everyone,
Just spoke to both Fr Jeannot and Fr Faublas. The rain started in Mirebalais last night and things are getting a bit rough over there. The bridge that is just around the corner from the Mirage Hotel that leads to the orphanage is gone. Fr Faublas is unable to get to the orphanage at this time. A lot of people have lost their homes. We are praying that water does not start to get to the orphanage itself.
There is a bridge near Montrouis that was also demolished by the water. The only way to Port-au-Prince now is thru the new road, however there is concern for the bridge we take from PAP to get to Mirebalais, if anything happens to that bridge then they will be completely cut off from PAP.
Please let's join together in prayers for the people of Haiti, and most specifically for the people of Mirebalais. Our prayers are also with Fr Jeannot & Fr Faublas because they have a lot on their hands with Parishioners without homes and there may be some deaths as well. If I remember correctly there are lots of little houses near the bridge.
I will keep you updated as to what is going on.

We'll have more information as we get it. Right now I have not heard any news that Fr. Jeannot and Fr. Faublas are going to change their plans to come to the U.S. for the HOM annual meeting on September 21. So we still hope to host Pere Jeannot in church in a couple weeks.


+ Kit

Friday, September 5, 2008

What's YOUR Favorite Hymn?

And why?

You can use the "comments" button to reply.

+ Kit

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Reading Ahead -- Pentecost 17

The gospel lesson for
this week presents one of the sanest, most straightforward methods of resolving conflict between two people.

That Jesus, he knew what he was talking about. And what he was talking about was not talking but listening.

In the community of Jesus' followers, we are supposed to listen honestly to a brother or sister if they have a complaint against us. And the brother or sister with a complaint is supposed to trust that they can be heard. Because even if the one person doesn't listen, you go back with two or three others to support you. And if the one person STILL doesn't listen, you state your complaint in front of the whole community. And if the person STILL doesn't listen, that person is to become to you as a "Gentile and a tax collector."

Hmmm, who was Jesus always trying to reach out to? Gentiles and tax collectors.

So Jesus is telling us how to go about being heard, and to trust that eventually we WILL be heard. That we can be restored to right relationship with someone in the community, if we just hang in there with it.

Is All Saints that sort of community where this sort of listening and reconciliation can happen? What do you think?

+ Kit

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Well, That's That, Then

I know, summer's been ending for weeks, as MSU and LCC got back to work. But the first roar of the school bus always means summer's end to me.

One year, on Labor Day, our community pool was about to close for the season. It had been a long, glorious summer, our kids just the perfect age to participate in all of it -- swim meets, sharks and minnows, hanging on the snack bar window, rocketing off the high dive. There were about 20 children in the pool when the final whistle blew. But they weren't ready for it to be over yet.

Slowly and reverently as their parents watched, they formed a long parade and slowly swam around the perimeter of the pool. And as the lights flickered on to illuminate their progress, one girl stopped at each light, dipped below the surface and kissed it farewell. Summer ended with that solemn parade.

Now it's time for something new, and for the same old rituals as well. The first home football game is next Saturday. We'll bless the Sunday School teachers in church next Sunday. And things will rev up and start to get humming again.

But I hope each of us can take a moment today to say farewell to summer in a way that works for you, that honors the beauty of the season, that prepares you for what God is about to do with you next, as fall approaches.

+ Kit

Monday, September 1, 2008

The Anglican Communion as Family

In the September issue of The Record, our Diocesan newspaper, Carol Cole Flanagan offers an insightful look at the Anglican Communion as a family -- the sort that can put the "fun" in "dysfunctional."

The article also gives a quick look at some of the ways that the late great rabbi, Ed Friedman, applied family systems theory to organizations. Ed realized that any organization is an organism, and human organizations organize themselves according to certain principles.

Basically, your family works like a family, but so does your workplace, so does the church, so does the choir, and so does your bridge club. That's why Bowen Family Systems Theory, which Murray Bowen developed in his work as a family therapist, has become so widely applied in any number of disciplines. It really explains why groups of people behave the way they do. Understanding why can help you function better in any group, whether that's ECW or the PTA, in the weekly department meeting or in the classroom.

We'll be looking at some of these organizing principles in the Wednesday night class that starts September 10 -- Family Ties That Bind. We start with supper at 6 p.m., then the class runs from 6:30-7:30 p.m.


Thursday, August 28, 2008

Saint of the Week -- Augustine of Hippo

In May, we celebrated Saint Monnica, mother of Augustine. Now at last we have arrived at the saint day of her son.

It is hard to estimate the influence of this one North African bishop on Christianity. Augustine gave us way too much to think about on the topic of original sin, an outgrowth of his lifelong struggle against lust (we still have a theological hangover from his work on original sin). He also gave us the just war theory, which teaches us not so much whether or not to enter conflict, but what is an ethical way of conducting one's part in the conflict. As Rome fell to barbarian invaders, he wrote the massive City of God, which explained how the Church, the "city of God" would eventually win out over human empires -- "the cities of men."

Augustine was a Berber, not a Roman, an outsider, a genius rhetorician, a wild and crazy guy, who after years of resisting his mother's prayers and the grace of God, gave in. He heard a child in a garden singing, "Take and read, take and read." He picked up the Letter to the Romans (which has gotten more people riled up for Jesus than any other book in the Bible ... like Martin Luther and John Wesley for starters.) and was converted.

"Thou hast made us for Thyself," he wrote later in his Confessions, "And our hearts are restless until they rest in thee."

+ Kit